I was moved yesterday as I scrolled through my Facebook feed and saw all the Mother’s Day memes describing mom as ‘super mom’, ‘super-human’ and ‘self-sacrificing’.
It is true that there really is nothing like a mother’s love and it is reassuring to know that as a culture we recognize the lengths that women go to for their children. I couldn’t help but be concerned however, when sponsored ads appeared on my Facebook feed that were advertising shirts and badges as the ‘perfect gift’ because they said, ‘Super Mom, Super Wife, Super Tired.‘ Is that really the best we can do?
Of course motherhood can be exhausting and even enough to make us feel we are losing our marbles, but should those experiences define motherhood? Should those moments or months or years be the way we determine that we are doing a good job? Are we inadvertently sending unrealistic and dysfunctional messages to women, our daughters and even our husbands and sons of what the ‘good mom’ does when we suggest she is amazing because she does it all and never thinks of herself?
Are Media Messages Making Mom Crazy?
We are bombarded with messages every day about what our bodies, our homes, our children and our marriages are supposed to look like. If you’ve read any of Brene Brown’s books, you know how pervasive shame is in all of our lives—how often we feel inadequate and unworthy—especially under the scrutinizing microscope of comparison.
I can’t help but wonder how much the media and the advertisement industry’s image of the super mom is responsible for what I call the mombie epidemic. Advertisement is notorious for setting their best trends and making their biggest profits by preying on our insecurities. Where better to start than with a mother’s love? An even more important question is, what effect is this having on the health of us as mothers and our children? After all, mother-child health is inseparable—but you knew that—right?
How To Know If You’ve Been Infected with the Mombie Virus
If you are:
- Just surviving?
- Child struggling in school or at home?
- Not a minute to yourself?
- Know exactly how the woman in the picture feels?
You may be a mombie. (AND IT’S NOT A TROPHY!)
I used to pride myself on being a survivor—on ‘toughing it out’. I honestly thought that was the ultimate alternative to being a wimp, a victim, a crappy mom—a loser. In fact, five years ago, I wouldn’t have even labelled myself as a mombie for one moment. I would have said, I’m a mom and like all moms—I’m busy with a career and a marriage and, and, and—besides! Everyone knows about the hurricane years. Oh and once you have a child—it’s not about you, right?
But what if, putting your self-care on the back-burner, puts your child on the backburner as well?
You are Your Child’s Health
I would have scoffed at this idea a few years ago until I had a
breakdown/breakthrough. I had hit my proverbial ‘rock-bottom’ with my health and a few months later my daughter began experiencing her own brain-body illness. I was trying to do everything right by putting my daughter’s health first and soon learned that mother and child health is inseparable. When I neglected myself, I neglected my child. As I was forced to invest time and energy into my own health—my daughter’s health also synonymously improved.
The Mombie Outbreak
In what generation, did we begin priding ourselves as being amazing moms the more sleep-deprived and self-sacrificing—to the point of breakdown—that we became? How did we ever start thinking that our children would be healthier and better off by giving up our own health and happiness? What kind of B.S. is the media and everyone else feeding us? This whole way of thinking reeks of medieval self-torture-holier-than-though insanity.
If this is progress, I’d like to time-travel to the period where mom ushered us outside for ‘fresh air’ so she could have some peace and quiet already and be a better mom for it. For me, feminism isn’t about burning bras, though I admit, there’s no greater feeling at the end of the day! Feminism is about honouring the feminine and part of the feminine is taking care of those you love. If you’re not included in that equation—I’ve got news for you—your kids are suffering for it.
If feminism means sacrificing every ounce of our health and happiness for our children (and let’s get real…coddling our children isn’t doing them any favours…) then I think I’d rather say “take my voting rights!” Take me back to when mom and dad knew that their health and sanity was paramount to the health and happiness of everyone in the family.
Old Beliefs, (especially media-spread ones) Die Hard!
The concept that your health is your child’s may be hard to believe because a crazed-martyr spread this myth a few decades ago that we can’t have healthy children and be healthy ourselves. That’s seriously insane! It might seem true right now because your children are taking every ounce of your time and energy. You may not be able to even imagine the concept of ‘me-time’. You might feel hopeless because you aren’t able to stick to a diet and feel like a quitter—but you’re wrong.
Every moment you spend rooting for your child or trying to get back on the dysfunctional diet wagon (even if traditional diets are totally misguided and even destructive), you prove that you are willing to fight for your children and YOU. You believe in their healing. You believe in your own resurrection—maybe even your own transformation.
I believe the mombie outbreak started somewhere when the media learned money was to be had by preying on your insecurities. If you don’t believe me, read this. I don’t believe it’s all malicious. Some of it started when TV allowed us the convenience of imagining our ideal selves.
The ideal mom (TV mom) is the one that can do it all, the mom that never loses her s%*# because she wakes up with hair in curls and make-up on. She is the mom who knows how to handle every challenge because she is the pre-recorded mom. As if that wasn’t bad enough we started internalizing what ‘perfect-mom’ looks like and does—anything and everything for her children–including sacrificing her own health and joy.
The resurrection of the Madonna is on TV every day ladies and we bought it into so much so that we strive for it and shame others who aren’t. We shame mothers for being too perfect and mothers who aren’t perfect enough. We shame mothers for being overweight and letting themselves go and we shame mothers for having the time to work-out and for being so ‘well-kept’. It seems there are no winners with the super-mombie epidemic.
Good Moms Take Care of Themselves
That picture-perfect-mombie is no good, ladies. She’s a fake. It won’t do. It can’t do! That smiling super-mombie is actually laughing at us. She’s impossible and she knows it. She forces us to keep toiling on because she’s convinced us that, ‘Good moms suffer. Good moms sacrifice.’
I call bullS#*%!! Good moms take care of themselves too.
Super-Mombie represents all that is wrong with the way we are raising our children today—the way we are cashing in our health and happiness in exchange for a temporary, feel-good “I’m not a bad mom” pat-on-the-back. It’s a great feeling in the moment, but long term, the mombie epidemic is making us and our children sick.
You’re a Warrior Mom–It’s Your Battle-Strategy that is Wrong
If you’re exhausted, over-weight, depressed and have a child suffering from a physical illness or brain disorder and feel that you’ve let yourself go—then you inspire me, woman! You might feel that you aren’t that picture perfect, over-planning Pinterest Mom/Sexy-Wife/Career Woman and it’s all half-assed, but what I see and am inspired by is the fierceness in the women with whom I work. Despite their exhaustion and their desire to give up—they don’t. They trudge on. They will do anything for their children.
Queen Cersei in Game of Thrones, might be a sociopath, but I think we can relate when she says that she would burn cities to the ground for her children. Metaphorically, you already are! You are running to the meetings, calling the teachers, driving to hockey and dance practice, doing the research and possibly cashing in your own health and wellness in the process.
You see–it’s not your undying dedication to your children and family that is the problem. It’s the way you are doing it.
You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup …Or Can You?
You might be able to do the mombie-run for a short time, to pretend you don’t have needs, but eventually you end up burnt-out. Your ability to care for your children or yourself feels like a non-stop trek up Mount Everest. You might even feel like you are doing a pretty good job of it and it might even last for years, but eventually it runs out and when it does—your kids feel it and so do you.
You’ve likely heard the saying ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’, but you can—sort of. When the depression, anxiety, short-temper, exhaustion and illness hit and you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck—that is the cup from which you are pouring. You can’t give your children that which you don’t have yourself. Your health reflects your child’s.
You Are Your Child’s Roots
I learned this the hard way. The very hard way. True to Your Roots was born from my own roller-coaster ride with an auto-immune condition, chronic anxiety and depression topped with my daughter’s worrisome brain-gut condition. In sacrificing my own recovery for my daughter’s, I learned that just as healthcare needs to be integrative and holistic—so too does the health and wellness of our family.
Mom’s health is reflective of her child’s health and vice versa. You knew this vital truth when you were pregnant; that your health is the baby’s health. The baby eats and drinks what you eat and drink. The same is true for breast-feeding and the same is true today—whether your child is three or thirteen.
Yes, You Can Have it All — Motherhood Can Be Both Selfless and Encompass Self-Care
There is no denying that motherhood involves self-sacrifice and selflessness. I’ve sacrificed plenty for my daughter and being a mother has taught me how easy it is to ‘give-up’ what once seemed so important for that little version of myself.
The real problem lies in defining motherhood as self-sacrifice. Rather than being defined as such—it needs to simply be acknowledged as a part of being a mother—rather than all encompassing.
The mombie virus flourishes when we buy into the idea that a mother can’t practice self-care, be selfless and make sacrifices. Of course, you might not be able to do all of this at the same time, but there is room for all of it. Somedays you sacrifice and some days you put your kids first—by putting you first.
In my next post, I will talk more about the mombie epidemic as well as the anti-dote. To learn more about how to nurture self-care and sanity sign up for my emails at the bottom of this page.